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An internal Southern Baptist Convention document released this week revealed the names of hundreds of Baptist leaders accused of sexual abuse, including four McLennan County pastors and teachers who were sent to prison for child sex abuse.
The 205-page database, released Thursday, includes more than 700 case entries that largely span from 2000 to 2019.
The report came to light on May 22 when an independent firm hired by the convention, Guidepost Solutions, mentioned it in a report detailing how the Southern Baptist Convention executive committee mishandled allegations of sexual abuse, said stranded many survivors and prioritized protecting the convention from liability.
The Guidepost report, released after a seven-month investigation, contains several revelations, including that D. August Boto, the former vice president and general counsel of the convention’s executive committee, and former spokesperson for the convention, Roger Oldham, maintained their own private list of abusive ministers. Both retired in 2019. The existence of the list was not widely known among the committee and its staff.
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“Despite collecting these reports for more than 10 years, there is no indication that (Oldham and Boto) or anyone else took any steps to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in senior positions. power in SBC churches,” the report said.
The committee made no additions to the published list, but its lawyers redacted several entries as well as the names and identifying information of survivors and others unrelated to the accused, according to a released statement. Thursday.
They have made public “entries that refer to a confession, confession, guilty plea, conviction, judgment, conviction, or entry in a sex offender registry”, and expect some of the entries redacted from the list will be made public once the search is complete. The list also includes Baptist ministers who are not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Tribune-Herald has previously reported on the four convicted sex offenders named in the report who previously served in Waco-area Baptist churches or schools.
Curtis Jene Smith
Curtis Jene Smith, then 38, pleaded guilty in 2006 to abusing a 12-year-old boy at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, 2919 McKenzie Ave., and was sentenced to 20 years in prison . Church leaders have admitted they failed to conduct background checks, which would have revealed a 1991 conviction for abusing two boys and a 2002 charge for failing to register as a sex offender .
The state’s public sex offender registry lists Smith as being on parole and living in Mexia as of February.
William Frank Brown, former pastor of Bellmead First Baptist Church, pleaded guilty in 2009 to four counts of aggravated sexual assault involving a young parishioner. He was sentenced in the state’s 19th District Court to four concurrent 50-year terms.
He was accused of abusing the girl from 2005 to May 2007. During the 2009 sentencing, the then 13-year-old girl called Brown her spiritual mentor and said her abuse left her sink into depression. Prosecutors also mentioned a second victim from Illinois who was not part of the Texas case. The Southern Baptist database shows that Brown had previously served as pastor at Panther Creek New Beginnings Baptist Church in Chandlerville, Illinois.
Bellmead Church, which once had 1,500 members, declined to around 11 regular attendees after the scandal. The church donated its facilities at 1000 Ashleman St. to the Waco Regional Baptist Association, which worked with First Baptist Church Woodway to create a missionary church called La Vega Community Church. The church now operates as Maranatha Church and is a member of the regional association.
Sergio David Bezerra, a teacher at Waco Baptist Academy for 13 years, was convicted in December 2014 of abusing two elementary school students in 2007. At trial, four young women testified that he abused them. He was found guilty of four counts of indecency with a child by contact and sentenced to four consecutive terms of 20 years in prison. He lost an appeal in 2016 and remains in jail.
Waco Baptist Academy, 6125 Bosque Blvd., was renamed Eagle Christian Academy in May 2017. The academy has been independent of church sponsorship since its founding in 1984, according to its website.
Benjamin Nelson was sentenced in 2018 to 20 years in prison as part of a plea bargain with Hill County prosecutors for using social media to lure a teenage girl into a sexual relationship. At the time, Nelson was pastor of the Peoria Baptist Church in Hill County and a freshman at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
Prosecutors said Nelson posed as a teenager online by persuading the 13-year-old to meet him in a parking lot, where she was found in his car. Nelson pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, two counts of indecency with a child through online contact and solicitation of a minor.
The Associated Press and Tribune-Herald editor JB Smith contributed to this report.